Pandemic Lessons on Leaving a Smaller Footprint

COVID-19 global lockdowns have given our planet and all of us humans living on it, a rare opportunity to experience life with dramatically less pollution in it. A life where we have all been moved to reduce, reuse, and recycle in numbers never seen before. And though it has been a chaotic time of fear and uncertainty, it has also opened our eyes to ways we might be able to do things a little wiser and a little kinder to the planet we call home. 

Reuse it

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When the urgent demand for masks exceeded the supply, a lot of us lost access to them. Many manufacturers repurposed their factories overnight and crafty people everywhere got to work churning out everything from basic paper masks to camouflage, paisley, and even branded masks for those wanting to express themselves while covered up. Our creative and unified approach to meeting this demand also became a great lesson in reusing what we already have. 

What could this mean for you? 

Go grab one of those ratty t-shirts your ex left behind, or the dated hawaiian shirt shoved in the back of your closet, dig up some sewing supplies and make something old useful again. Recycling fabrics, as well as finding a second-life for other existing items, takes big environmental pressure off our growing demand vs supply needs.

Minimalize

Can’t get out to pick up all the storage boxes and organizing trays you thought you so desperately needed? Take this shopping-detox as an opportunity to look at your possessions and decide for good what you actually need. Go through the rooms in your home, look at what you’re holding on to and decide what value it actually brings to your life. 

Asking yourself the following questions might help when deciding what items to potentially pass on to someone else.

Have you used it in the last 30-60 days?

Is it expired or otherwise unusable?

Am I keeping this for sentimental reasons or gift-guilt? 

Do I know someone who could use this or enjoy it more than I?

After downsizing and keeping only what brings you joy, you might find that you already have everything you’d need to organize your things without purchasing more plastic containers. Those storage boxes and trays might seem convenient but only add to our growing dependency on single-use plastics and will sit in our landfills forever more. Try up-cycling empty containers or boxes to organize your drawers, or for storing small items like rubber bands and paper clips.

Grow Your Own 

Yes, we’re talking about growing your own food. Challenging yourself to workout the green thumb you didn’t know you had is easier than you might think. If you’ve grown to dislike the mostly unripe, tasteless tomatoes from the grocery store and accessing your nearest farmer’s market is a challenge, you can counter this and more by starting a garden to fit your sunny-space requirements. A simple herb garden is not only easy for the beginner, it saves you from purchasing expensive herbs while reducing waste and emissions by growing your own. Get creative with your new gardener-self and see what works best for you. Here’s some other ways to totally own growing for yourself.

  • Sprout the seeds you get and save
  • Ask your garden-chic friends for advice, and for mulch
  • DIY raised garden beds from existing materials
  • Search for obtainable ways to improve soil quality
  • Reuse plastic water bottles as self-watering 

Sounds adventurous, right? At the very least, it’s a beneficial diversion for us and a big step towards saving the planet. Getting your hands in the dirt and creating edible results can be a natural and inexpensive therapy for such an anxious moment in time as this. Break the indoor-lifecycle with healthy gardening time in the sun and you absorb your essential vitamin D while you stop to smell the rosemary.

Shipping and Handling With Care

While it’s true our social-distanced lives increased our anxiety around a sense of scarcity, many of us soothed ourselves with the instant gratification of spontaneous online shopping, without putting much thought into the environmental implications of our late night ship-binges. 

The convenience of shipping goods is undeniable. You can order just about anything online, and it’s never been easier to get your everyday necessities, like dishwashing detergent and toothpolish on your doorstep the next day. Unfortunately, as in most cases of convenience, small and frequent shipping orders come at an environmental cost. Try planning out your weekly, or even monthly purchases, and order more of your necessities at one time. Find online shop clubs committed to shipping mindfully. Most major online retailers have box optimizing selections at checkout to help reduce shipping box waste, and some companies reward you for shopping wiser with money back memberships or discount offers. Unless it’s a vital and immediate need, do the planet a solid and switch to wholesale or bulk online ordering and guarantee eco-shipping. 

Bonus eco-points are awarded (figuratively) for choosing locally-sourced companies and brands having traveled less distances, saving you time and helping the planet. When you consider that freight vehicles are a top producer of US carbon dioxide emissions, changing the way you shop online may seem small but it’s actually a big win. Not only does faster shipping demands increase our carbon output, the simple fact is, the more you buy, the more packaging is created and fuel burned. All of which negatively affects the planet by putting too much stress on her natural resources.

Park It

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If you live in a big city, you may have noticed how clean the air smells with less cars bumper-to-bumper on the highways and streets. Up until recently, Lincoln Boulevard has often been stated as the ugliest street in all Los Angeles, California is now described by locals as eerily calm and even pretty. In India, where pollution frequently reaches dangerous levels, the Himalayas are being seen for the first time as the veil of air pollution has lifted due to dramatically reduced emissions. 

Gina McCarthy, former head of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) during the Obama administration, was interviewed by the Guardian and spoke about the global pandemic resulting in sharp dips in air pollution across China, Europe and the United States. The article stating the carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels at a record-breaking 5% annual drop. By maintaining low global-commute-demands, and when people consciously decide to walk or ride vs. drive, we can literally change the game on pollution.

The waters of Venice are clear, wildlife wander around Yosemite national park in California, wild boar boldly roam the streets of Israel, and now, with a lull in traffic and fishermen staying at home during the city’s lockdown, dolphins are swimming and jumping in the waters of the Bosporus in Turkey.

Simply put—the planet is smiling. 

When Greta Thunberg begged people last year to reconsider airline travel it seemed such an unlikely scenario. Meanwhile, in the last three months nearly eight in ten flights globally have been canceled, and many of the planes in the air are only carrying a handful of people. 

Carpe Diem 

It’s become abundantly clear; we’ve never had a better chance to make a greener world. The pandemic brought undeniable environmental benefits, from lower carbon emissions and a respite for wildlife, to cleaner air. Now the big question is whether we can take these lessons to heart, having seen the real possibilities for change, and commit to doing whatever it takes to keep the momentum going for a happier, healthier planet.

Learning Sustainability 101

The Earth has remarkable healing powers but if humankind does not take steps to live a sustainable lifestyle then things could reach a tipping point of no return. Climate change is becoming more pronounced every year and many scientists view the ecological developments as dire as the world’s population continues to overuse resources and inundate the planet with pollution. Sustainability is not just focusing on the environment but also the economic resources impacted by the current situation. Standards of living must change to save the Earth and its inhabitants. In this article, we will explore sustainability 101 so you can learn the steps to take to make a difference.

Learn Sustainability 101 Tips 

It is difficult to attain sustainability because most people must dramatically change their habits and maintain a positive outlook on the steps that they are taking. However, positive sustainable lifestyle changes help you live a healthier lifestyle and even save money, which are two undeniable pro’s. 

Here are a few tips for helping with sustainability 101: 

Say ‘no’ to fossil fuels!  

While this might not be entirely possible in all situations, you can cut back your use and dependence on fossil fuels. Efforts to cut fossil fuel usage can be as simple as carpooling to work, riding a bicycle or even using public transportation. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reports that in a 2017 study, the average U.S. household uses $1,977 worth of gasoline per year. Clearly, the amount spent on fuel is considerable for most families. Imagine how great it would be if you could save money through sustainable means while also doing a positive thing for the environment. Science Direct has found that 336.53 million liters of gas could be saved every year through ridesharing or carpooling initiatives, which would have a huge impact on decreasing climate change. 

Practice water conservation

You might be surprised to learn that water is a non-renewable resource. In fact, in many parts of the world, clean water is non-existent. Yes, there are large oceans, lakes, and rivers but the water is usually not usable in an untreated state. Water obtained from lakes and rivers must go through a cleansing process. Ocean water requires purification and desalination. Every year, much of the world is hit by severe droughts. California is one of those regions that regularly undergo very harsh droughts that lead to severe water restrictions. When drought hits, farmers suffer, and the food chain starts to break down. 

You must do your part to conserve water if you want to focus on sustainability. 

  • Conserve water by installing water conservation toilets and plumbing in your home. 
  • Explore xeriscaping to reduce the need to irrigate a water-hungry lawn. 
  • Take shorter showers
  • Turn off the water while you brush your teeth or shave
  • Use Energy Star rated appliances to save money with your washing machine and dishwasher
  • Collect rainwater
  • Water your yard only when needed
  • Consider installing a drip irrigation system
  • Cover your swimming pool to slow evaporation 
  • Avoid watering hardscaping 

Live a minimalist lifestyle

You do not have to live without when living a minimalist lifestyle. Instead, you simply maximize the uses for everything that you own. Get rid of the things that you do not need. If you own fewer belongings, then you can live in a smaller space which helps you conserve energy substantially. Yes, you will live with fewer things when throwing yourself into a minimalist lifestyle, but the things you do have take on far greater importance and significance. 

Explore new lighting

Prior to 1900, people would rise with the sun and then they would go to bed when the sunset. This practice was done out of necessity in many ways. They wanted to make the most of the daylight hours. However, living during daylight hours was also a reflection of the lack of viable light when darkness fell. Oil lamps and candles were expensive so most people would just retire early. However, Thomas Edison changed everything with the invention of the lightbulb. Now people can stay up all night. However, lights take energy. One of the best ways that you can embark on sustainability is to explore new lighting for your home. You can opt for longer-lasting, energy-efficient lighting and bulb choices to cut down on power use and save on your energy bill. 

Use natural cleaners 

Chemical cleaners contaminate the world’s waterways and air. They can easily sneak past water treatment plants to invade the environment. Chemical cleaners create an extraordinarily strong chemical smell and release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the atmosphere. Using natural and non-toxic cleaners is not only a healthy option for the planet, but also for your family. 

Practice reduce, reuse, and recycle

Many Americans avidly practice recycling. In fact, most communities provide you with special bins to sort your recycling. You can recycle old glass bottles, cardboard, and aluminum cans. Landfills are overflowing. The decaying debris causes the release of harmful chemicals, including greenhouse gasses. However, recycling significantly cuts down on pollution. In addition, recycling helps to save natural habitats and prevent deforestation because there is a lower need for raw materials. Also, you should take into consideration the amount of energy expelled in creating new products from raw materials and understand that recycling saves energy. By reusing existing materials, greenhouse emissions are reduced and natural resources are reserved. 

Choose renewable energy

When living sustainably, your goal should always be to break away from the fossil fuel industry. One of the great ways to do this is to install solar panels for power and even a solar water heater. On occasion, the government provides tax credits if you opt to go with solar options. Many people are taking their quest for sustainability much further by opting to live completely off the grid. Without a doubt, choosing renewable energy reduces your carbon footprint significantly. You can even purchase an electric car. 

Learning sustainability 101 is not difficult. The above ways to live a sustainable life are just a few options. There are many ways you can help the world heal and live a happier, healthier lifestyle.